Caught in an Authoritarian Trap of its Own Making? Brazil's ‘Lava Jato’ Anti‐Corruption Investigation and the Politics of Prosecutorial Overreach

20 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2020

Date Written: October 2020

Abstract

The negative and corrosive impacts of corruption in the fields of economics, politics, and law are widely discussed. Less understood are the potentially negative impacts of anti‐corruption struggles and strategies themselves. This article presents a case study of Brazil's ‘Car Wash’ (‘Lava Jato’) scandal from a legal and political perspective. Although the subsequent Operation Car Wash investigation was widely regarded as remarkably successful, supposedly buttressing the rule of law through high‐profile prosecutions of leading politicians and businesspersons, the article argues that legal due process, wider constitutional law, and the political process were undermined. While the use of media leaks to strengthen the investigation proved tactically successful, when coupled with new legal instruments it undermined the presumption of innocence and contributed to a climate in which political and legal debates themselves became increasingly subordinated to simplistic polarizing anti‐corruption discourses, thereby undermining an already fragile political and institutional environment.

Suggested Citation

MÉSZÁROS, GEORGE, Caught in an Authoritarian Trap of its Own Making? Brazil's ‘Lava Jato’ Anti‐Corruption Investigation and the Politics of Prosecutorial Overreach (October 2020). Journal of Law and Society, Vol. 47, pp. S54-S73, 2020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3725565 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jols.12245

GEORGE MÉSZÁROS (Contact Author)

University of Warwick

Gibbet Hill Rd.
Coventry, CV4 8UW
United Kingdom

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